Domino only wants to give you everything. Freeze-frames, blurred or stuttering slo-mo, fast-forwards, filters, strobe flickers, 360-degree pans (of mescaline sex), Keira Knightley’s pelvic cleavage. A jump cut splits apart a single facial expression. The movie’s framing device seems to be shot through the glass of a forgotten fish tank. Things happen, like Tom Waits alighting upon the overexposed desert, then they un-happen, as when a firing squad’s bullets zip back into their respective rifles. Very loosely based on the life of poor little rich girl Domino Harvey, the bounty hunting daughter of actor Laurence, the movie begins in the “ass end of the Nevada desert” on a trailer ambush. The prey is an ample, mutt-faced mama who just happens to be watching The Manchurian Candidate on TV when Domino and her burly associates show up and fling her son’s arm into the kitchen. Just another day at the office for the director of Man on Fire.
As played by Knightley, Domino is a bratty tomboy, a tough-talking chick whose clenched jaw, sour expression, and spherical vowels nonetheless suggest that a meadow vole has taken up residence under her extremely English tongue. Sad Domino mourns her dead goldfish and her dead dad, in that order, and whiles away her adolescence sulking by the pool with her nunchakus before finding a surrogate father and life-affirming vocation in “legendary bounty hunter” Ed (Mickey Rourke). The script, allegedly by Donnie Darko‘s Richard Kelly, throws together tangentially related plots like cats in a sack: DMV mistress Lateesha (Mo’Nique Imes-Jackson) is running a fake-license scheme, a TV exec (Christopher Walken) casts Domino in a reality show hosted by some Beverly Hills, 90210 vets, there’s lots of shooting and some terrorism, etc. (The real Domino Harvey was found dead of an apparent overdose earlier this year; two bond industry colleagues served as “technical advisers” to the film.)
With the sloppy-sentimental repentance usually associated with the tail end of a drug binge, the movie decides late in the going that it’s all about the children—Lateesha’s sick grandchild and some happy Afghan kids frolicking in money, to be specific. In this respect, Domino is abusively moronic enough to inspire something like pity. The movie staggers toward you like a jabbering tweak freak, reeking of chemical sweat, a feral blankness in his beady eyes. He corners you with jumbled stories of wild times and severed limbs and this one time in Nevada and, affronted that your attentions flag, throws a sucker punch about his sick kid in the hospital. You listen and you feel yourself getting stupider.